Pinguecula

Overview

What is pinguecula?

Pinguecula (pronounced, ping-gweh-kyuh-luh) is a yellowish raised growth on your eye’s conjunctiva. Your conjunctiva is the clear membrane that covers the white part of your eye.

The pinguecula typically forms on the inner side of the white part of your eye, near your nose. But it can also appear on the other side of your eye too.

A pinguecula is a deposit of protein, fat or calcium or a combination of all three. It may be small, round or triangular in shape and barely noticeable. Over many years, it may grow in size.

Is pinguecula serious?

Pinguecula is a harmless growth that’s not dangerous. It’s not cancer. In most cases, it usually doesn’t cause pain or discomfort. In most people, a pinguecula usually doesn’t need to be removed or treated.

Who gets pinguecula?

Pinguecula can happen to anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors in the sun without eye protection. The chance of pinguecula increases with age. It’s most commonly seen in middle-aged and older adults.

How common is pinguecula?

Pinguecula is a common condition. Almost everyone has some signs of pinguecula by their 80s.

Can pinguecula interfere with my vision?

Pinguecula usually develops outside your central vision. It’s not impossible, but it usually doesn’t grow large enough to block your vision. Having a pinguecula will not cause blindness.

Does pinguecula go away on its own?

Pinguecula doesn’t go away on its own. The only way to remove it is with surgery.

What is the difference between pterygium and pinguecula?

Both are growths on your eye’s conjunctiva. Exposure to sun, wind or dust is thought to be a common link.

  • Pinguecula is a raised yellowish or white growth. It stays on the conjunctiva and doesn’t overlap with the cornea. It usually doesn’t cause symptoms or needs to be removed.
  • Pterygium is a fleshy growth that has many blood vessels in it. It may remain small or can grow and spread onto the cornea, which can affect your vision. For this reason, it’s thought to be more serious than pinguecula.

What is pingueculitis?

Pingueculitis means inflammation is present. When this happens, the pinguecula interferes with your tear film. You’ll experience dry eye symptoms, including burning sensation, itching, and a feeling of having something in your eye.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the signs and symptoms of pinguecula?

The most common symptom of pinguecula is a small, yellowish patch or bump on the conjunctiva of your eye.

Other symptoms include:

  • Red, irritated, itchy or swollen eyes.
  • Dry eyes.
  • Feeling like you have sand or grit in your eye.
  • Teary eyes.

These symptoms can be mild to severe. Pinguecula can happen in one or both eyes and more than one can be present in the same eye.

What causes pinguecula?

A change in your conjunctiva causes pinguecula. The result is a small yellow-white bump. The reason for the change is not fully known, but causes may include:

  • Long-term exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light (most common cause).
  • Eye irritation from wind and dust.
  • Increasing age.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is pinguecula diagnosed?

Your eye care provider can diagnose pinguecula through a normal eye exam. Your provider will use a slit lamp to closely examine the growth. A slit lamp is a type of microscope that focuses a narrow (a “slit”) line of bright light on your eye. It helps your provider look at the front and inside of your eye.

How is pinguecula treated?

If your symptoms aren’t causing eye discomfort, you probably don’t need treatment. If the pinguecula is causing discomfort, your eye care provider may:

  • Recommend over-the-counter eye ointments or prescription lubricating (wetting) drops or artificial tears.
  • Prescribe a short course of steroid eye drops or eye ointments to reduce eye redness and swelling.

When is surgery needed?

You and your provider may discuss surgery to remove the pinguecula if:

  • It becomes too uncomfortable or remains inflamed.
  • It grows too close to your cornea and affects your vision.
  • It makes wearing contact lenses uncomfortable or not possible.
  • You don’t like the appearance of the growth on your eye (cosmetic reason).

Keep in mind that pinguecula can grow back even if you’ve had surgery.

What is argon laser photocoagulation?

Argon laser photocoagulation is an alternative approach to surgery to remove the pinguecula. An anesthetic eye drop is put in your eye to numb it. A high-power laser removes thicker pinguecula; a low-power laser removes thinner pinguecula.

You’ll receive topical antibiotic steroid eye drops to put in your eye while it heals.

Ask your eye care provider which removal method — surgery or laser — is best suited for the pinguecula on your eye, should you choose to remove it.

Prevention

What can I do to prevent pinguecula?

You can lower your risk of developing pinguecula if you:

  • Wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat when you’re in the sun to protect your eyes from ultraviolet light. Sunglasses should stop 99% to 100% of both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays. Wrap-around styles are the best. Wear them even on cloudy days.
  • Wear protective eyewear if you work in overly dusty or dry conditions.
  • Use artificial tears to help keep your eyes moist and reduce irritation.

Outlook / Prognosis

What outcome can I expect if I have pinguecula?

Pinguecula has a good prognosis. A pinguecula usually doesn’t cause any serious problems. Most people who have a pinguecula don’t need treatment. Medications can treat symptoms if you have them. If the pinguecula grows to the point where it blocks or blurs your vision (a rare event), your provider can remove it.

Living With

When should I call my doctor?

See your eye care provider if you think you have a pinguecula or notice any change in your vision. Also call your provider if you have a pinguecula and continue to feel eye discomfort despite using medications. A visit will allow your provider to confirm the diagnosis, check the general health of your eyes and change or amend your medications.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

It may be comforting to know that a pinguecula is a harmless growth on your eye. It usually doesn’t interfere with your vision or requires treatment. If it does cause ongoing discomfort, your provider can recommend a prescription or over-the-counter medication. Ask your provider about surgery as an option if your eye remains uncomfortable despite treatment or if you’re bothered by the way your eye looks.

Care at Cleveland Clinic

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/08/2022.

References

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology. EyeSmart. What is a Pinguecula and a Pterygium (Surfer’s Eye)? (https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/pinguecula-pterygium)
  • American Academy of Ophthalmology. EyeWiki. Pinguecula. (https://eyewiki.org/Pinguecula)
  • American Optometric Association. Pinguecula. (https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-and-vision-conditions/pinguecula?sso=y)
  • Merck Manual Consumer Version. Pinguecula and Pterygium. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/eye-disorders/conjunctival-and-scleral-disorders/pinguecula-and-pterygium)
  • Somnath A, Tripathy K. Pinguecula. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK558965/) [Updated 2021 Aug 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.

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